I have always found the flexibility of the human English language to be as fascinating as it is frustrating. Words can mean more than one thing and the complexities of trying to navigate the world with human English as your second language can be comical at times.

And yes, poignant.

Take, for instance, the word present. It has multiple meanings and each seems appropriate for my journey (and friendship) with Max.

Let me explain.

When we first got to know Max he presented many unusual symptoms. His muscles were atrophied in certain areas that defied any telling pattern or history. He had a mild (at the time) skin infection and showed neurological signs that were troubling — the inability to flip his front left paw onto its pad when it was bent, for instance. He wasn’t interested in food until he was and then he ate heartily, but every day what he’d eat was a mystery.

When we took him to the neurologist this past week, he agreed that every symptom Max presented pointed to Wobblers — or a neurological condition centered in his cervical spine.

But then they performed a MRI and the spine looked fine — no deformities or abnormalities –and what Max presented lead down another path.

Unfortunately, that path was unclear at best, and downright murky and muddled at worst. So a blanket approach was taken — something inside Max was causing the neurological and muscular issues, making his skin infection blossom, and causing Max pain. He was given anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, pain medications, and just about anything they had on hand to boost his immune system, knock out any infections and inflammation, and relieve the pain. A battery of tests have been submitted to appropriate labs and so we wait…practicing patience.

At the writing of this blog, Max is still at the hospital and while I got to visit him for a short while today, the mystery is still a mystery.

Or should I say, the present mystery is still a mystery at this time.

Yes, present as in currently…yet another meaning of the word and we presently don’t seem to have any more answers than we had on Thursday. And presently his finicky appetite is very finicky — he’s not eating much and that is not a good sign. I did what I could to encourage him, but he’s a stubborn boy so we’re hoping he decides to get hungry enough to eat.

I wish I could have been present while they were trying to get him to eat. And yes, another meaning of the word — to be there, to be present. Usually Max would eat when he saw me eat and while I am sometimes equally finicky, when Max sees me eat, he lets go of his stubbornness and joins in…not always, but often.

But being present I’ve learned is more than just sharing a meal. Being present is to live in this moment of uncertainty and guarded optimism. I don’t like it much. It’s very uncomfortable not knowing what tomorrow will bring for Max (or the day after that or even the moment after this)… but walking this journey with Max has given me lots and lots of practice at being present.

The other definition of present is a gift. This is when my curls get sad and I can feel a few tears well up in my Doodle eyes. In so many ways, Max has been a bittersweet gift. He has taught me about courage and patience. He has taught about fortitude and chutzpah. He has shown me that a wag of the tail can mean so much more than I ever expected. His desire to be loved and show love has been an indescribable gift to all of us.

On Thursday, when we thought that perhaps Max was not long for this present world, we had long conversations about the gift we could give to him — the gift of moving on to a “existence” without pain or weakness. The tears flowed freely around here and we were all ready to let go and help Max let go, too…surrounded by the love that had been absent most of his life.

But when the vet called and said he wanted to try a few more things, our hope lifted and we wondered if perhaps the present was the gift of a miracle.

Oh Maxie, I do so hope for that gift to arrive for you.

Today Max, I took a walk with my family at the park and up ahead of us we saw a big white dog — a white buffalo just like you. I got so excited. I pulled and pulled at the leash (something I don’t do much) and tried to race ahead. The closer I got to the big white dog, the more I wiggled and wagged.

Of course, it wasn’t you. Instead, it was Eloise another Great Pyrenees with a funky gait and a big-tongued smile. She was happy to see me and though it wasn’t you, I was cordial and friendly. Still, I was so hoping you were out of the hospital and out in the world with your forever family.

That’s the present I want for you Max. More than I can ever express in these present words.

We told Eloise and her family all about you today and when we told them your nickname was White Buffalo, they smiled and said that once a little boy had called Eloise a Big White Cloud with Legs.

I guess a lot can be expressed with the human English language and even though at times it makes my curls hurt trying to navigate my way in the world with human words, I am thankful for the word present and its many powerful and poignant meanings.

Be present, Max. Keep fighting if the fight is in you and always remember in your heart what a gift you’ve been (and continue to be) to every life you’ve touched.

Your buddy forever (which is kind of like presently to the nth degree!),




3 Replies to “Present”

  1. Beautifully written. I continue to pray for the “White Buffalo”. Love you Max, please stay strong.

  2. Rubin –
    Our dog was in ICU at ACCES for a week in August with pneumonia. We too had to hand feed him. Roasted chicken worked well (he would not eat the canned chicken) as did bread and butter, cheese burgers. We put butter on everything just to get some calories in him. Also, the staff would warm his food in the micro and that seemed to help. I suspect that you have tried everything but I wanted to pass this along.

    Miracles do happen – after days of thinking we might lose him, our 13 yr old WHP Griffon recovered and is still with us today. Hang in there.

    Sending healing energy and prayers to Max.

    – Jane

  3. Thanks everyone for the food suggestions. I know they are trying everything and we are encouraged by the vet’s willingness to keep him at the hospital and try new approaches. Your prayers are felt!

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